A Review of the Canon Sure Shot A-1 Water Proof Film Camera

The Canon Sure Shot A1, also known as Canon Autoboy D5 in Japan and Canon Prima AS-1 in Europe, was a popular camera during the 1990s. Its simplicity and robustness, combined with the nostalgic touch of film, continue to make it a sought-after camera.

It is a fully automatic camera featuring a 32mm f/3.5 lens. There is a flash and an underwater focusing mode. Another similar camera model exists that has panorama and date functions.

The non panaramic date version of the Sure Shot A1
The non panaramic date version

The Sure Shot A1 comes in a compact, user-friendly design. The large red shutter release is easy to operate. There are few controls, which makes the camera easy for anyone to use.

The camera is water proof to 5m/16.4ft. However, it is important not to jump into water with the camera or clean it with running water. Both of those can cause enough force to where water will be able to penetrate the o-rings and get inside of the camera.

With dimensions of 133 x 88 x 56 mm and a weight of 385 g, the Canon Sure Shot A1 is portable and durable. The camera was designed for rugged use, making it an excellent choice for outdoor and adventure photography.

The waterproof feature down to 5m was quite innovative for its time, opening up new possibilities for amateur photographers to explore underwater scenes without needing expensive professional equipment. The gaskets surrounding the battery compartment and film back provide this waterproof capability. Make sure to keep them clean from sand or other debris.

Canon Sure Shot A-1 Shutter Button and Self Timer
Next to the shutter button is the self-timer button

Next to the shutter button, is the self-timer button. When the self-timer is used, the red eye reduction lamp on the front of the camera will blink for 10 seconds. Then the picture will be taken. The self-timer can be canceled by pressing the self-timer button again.

On the other side of the view finder is the film counter. In the picture is shows ‘S’ as the film compartment is empty.

The camera has 4 different shooting modes that are selected by the front dial.

  • No Flash
  • Flash
  • Auto
  • Underwater Macro Mode

The Canon Sure Shot A1 has a 32mm f/3.5 lens. This wide-angle lens is great for street, landscape, and portrait photography, providing a broad field of view and a decent amount of detail. The fixed aperture of f/3.5 ensures sufficient light enters the camera, facilitating shooting in varied light conditions.

The camera’s automatic mode, combined with the 3-point Smart Autofocus system, simplifies operation and enhances image quality. The camera also incorporates a built-in flash, which triggers automatically in low-light and backlit conditions, ensuring your subjects are appropriately lit.

Canon Sure Shot A-1 View Finder
The Sure Shot A-1 view finder was designed to be used with goggles

The viewfinder has AF frame lines. The lower set of lines that partially stick out are parallax correction lines for when the shooting distance is less than 0.45m or 1.5ft.

These Canon Sure Shot A-1 sample images were taken using expired Fujifilm Superia 400 film. They were taken at Market Meadows, a strip mall that was due to be torn down. All of the businesses had moved out long ago.

I developed the film myself and digitized it using a macro lens. That’s why the color is the way it is. The lens is great for the type of photography it was designed for. I don’t have any underwater photography sample photos.

Canon Sure Shot A-1 Sample Photo
Expired Superia 400 Film
Canon Sure Shot A-1 Sample Photo
Lens distortion is very well controlled
Canon Sure Shot A-1 Sample Photo
The lens is fast enough and metering good enough for low light shooting

The Sure Shot A-1 was a popular camera and used copies are easy to find online.

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At the time of writing this, they can be found in good condition for less than $150. Pay close attension to the rubber seals in photos. There are two, one on the film door and one on the battery door.

Make sure that the film door latch is not damaged. The plastic hooks that hold the film door shut tend to break. Also make sure the film door rubber gasket is clean and in good condition. If you see sand in a photo, stay away from the camera.

The bottom of the Canon Sure Shot A1 and battery compartment
The bottom of the camera and battery compartment

The Canon Sure Shot A1 uses a 3V CR123A battery.

If you are using the version with the date function, you will also need a CR2032 battery. The A1 can be used without a battery in the date back. These batteries are readily available and can be purchased online.

You can easily find CR123A batteries online.

The gasket is dirty with sand, so it is likely to fail
The gasket is dirty with sand, so it is likely to fail

The date back requires a CR2032 battery in order to operate. The battery door is on the inside of the film door. A screw needs to be removed to get access to the battery.

The Sure Shot A1 uses 35mm film, the standard and most widely available film format. It’s compatible with DX-encoded film, enabling automatic setting of the correct ISO value, which ranges from 25 to 3200. The broad ISO range is advantageous when shooting in different lighting conditions.

Here is my suggested film to use with the camera:

If the Canon Sure Shot A1 doesn’t quite meet your needs, or you’re just curious about what else is out there, there are plenty of other underwater cameras that use 35mm film. Here are a few compact cameras to consider:

  • Nikonos V: This is Nikon’s most advanced underwater 35mm camera, capable of functioning down to 50 meters. With interchangeable lenses and manual exposure control, it offers versatility and precision.

  • Minolta Weathermatic Dual 35: This fully automatic camera is waterproof down to 5 meters and has two built-in lenses for both wide-angle and telephoto shots.

  • Olympus MJU II (Stylus Epic): While not strictly an underwater camera, the MJU II is weather-resistant and can be used underwater with an additional casing. It’s compact, has a fast f/2.8 lens, and its fully automatic operation makes it easy to use.

  • Pentax Marine 7x50 with Compass: This is an impressive, rugged camera that is water and fog-proof, making it perfect for more extreme conditions.

  • Sea & Sea Motormarine II EX: This is a more specialized underwater camera that can be used down to 60 meters. It offers a range of advanced features like a 35mm lens and a strobe connector.

Remember, when choosing an underwater camera, it’s essential to consider your individual needs and preferences, including the depths you’ll be diving, the type of photography you want to do, and your budget.

The Canon Sure Shot A1 is a compact, user-friendly, and durable 35mm film camera, renowned for its underwater capabilities, making it a perfect companion for adventure-filled photography.

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The Sure Shot A1 comes with a red carrying case for easy transport and protection. The case features a zipper and a Velcro tab for securing the camera and a shoulder strap for comfortable carrying. The camera also includes a panorama and date function model, offering additional creative possibilities for photographers.

Overall, the Canon Sure Shot A1 is a testament to Canon’s ingenuity and commitment to creating durable, user-friendly cameras. Its simple yet robust features make it a timeless piece that continues to bring joy to film photography enthusiasts worldwide.

Here are the specs for the Canon Sure Shot A1 taken from the Canon A-1 page at the Canon Camera Museum.

Feature Specification
Type Fully automatic 35mm Lens-Shutter, AF waterproof (down to 5 m) camera
Picture Size 24×36 mm, panorama (13x36mm) enabled
Focusing Above water: 3-point Smart Autofocus with near-infrared beam. Prefocus enabled.
Underwater: None. Fixed focus (Macro: 0.45 m – 1 m)
Lens 32mm f/3.5 (6 elements in 6 groups)
Shutter Electromagnetic programmed shutter and aperture.
In auto mode and flash-on mode: EV 9.5 (f/3.5 at 1/60 sec.) – EV 17 (f/22 at 1/250 sec.).
In flash-off mode: EV 3 (f/3.5 at 2 sec.) – EV 17 (f/22 at 1/250 sec.).
Built-in electronic self-timer.
Viewfinder Albada reversed Galilean viewfinder.
0.42x magnification and 84% coverage.
33mm eye relief.
Within the image area are the AF frame, close-up frame, panorama frame, green OK-to-Shoot LED (lights when focus is achieved; blinks for close-up warning, camera-shake warning, and red-eye reduction lamp ON; and turns off during flash recycling).
EE a-Si cell for full-auto program EE.
Metering range of EV 3 – 17.
Film speed range: ISO 25 – 3200 (with DX code).
Built-in Flash Fixed, built-in flash.
Guide No. 7.5 (at ISO 100 in meters).
Fires automatically in low-light and backlit conditions.
Red-eye reduction lamp provided.
Autodate Feature Year, month, day (variable order) imprinted with 7-segment transparent LCD.
Power Source One 3 V CR123A lithium batteries
Film Loading & Advance After opening camera back, align film leader at mark, then close the camera back for auto loading.
Auto film advance with built-in motor.
Film advance speed: 1 fps.
Frame Counter Counts up during film advance.
Counts down during film rewind.
Film Rewind Automatic with built-in motor.
No midroll rewind.
Dimensions & Weight 133 x 88 x 56 mm, 385 g (with battery)